OVER-65s could start receiving their Covid vaccination invite letters next week as the UK’s jab rollout powers on, it’s reported.
Almost a million Brits were injected at the weekend, with more than 9.2 million overall now receiving at least one dose.
Over-65s could start receiving their vaccination invite letters from next week it’s reportedCredit: Getty Images – Getty
Matt Hancock led last night’s Downing Street press conferenceCredit: PA:Press Association
Nearly nine in 10 over-80s and half of over-70s have had their first jab, with the government on target to offer vaccines to all over-70s by February 15.
All older care home residents and staff have been offered a jab, with Mr Hancock praising Britain’s “incredible” vaccine rollout.
It comes as a frantic effort was launched to stem the spread of the new South Africa variant of the disease.
So far, 105 cases of the African strain have been found here, but 11 infected Brits have no links to foreign travel, suggesting there may be hundreds more.
Door-to-door testing is being rolled out for up to 350,000 Brits in affected areas, as Mr Hancock urged them to “take extra precautions”.
“We need to come down hard on it, and we will,” the Health Secretary vowed.
Meanwhile, the number of people testing positive for the virus fell to 18,607 on Monday, down 30 per cent in seven days.
Hospital admissions also dropped by 20 per cent week on week.
With cases across England falling to pre-New Year’s figures, Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty is understood to have told the Prime Minister we passed the peak of infections last week, The Telegraph reports.
Another 40 million doses of the Valneva vaccine have now been secured, with the UK having now ordered 400 million jabs altogether, the Health Secretary confirmed.
Mass door-to-door testing for 350,000 people is being rolled out in affected areas, including Woking, after 105 cases of the new South Africa variant were discoveredCredit: AFP or licensors
If it gains approval, the Valneva vaccine will be manufactured in Livingston in Scotland.
But announcing 105 cases of the South African mutation of the virus had now been found in the UK Mr Hancock stressed it was “on all of us to contain this new variant” as he warned people in affected areas to stay at home.
Eleven are not linked to international travel, with Mr Hancock admitting there more may be more cases.
Mr Hancock said: “I am so proud of our team who have now vaccinated 9.2 million people across the UK.
“I know just how much these jabs mean to people. We have invested early, and at risk before we know for sure if it will come good.
“Because from the start we have taken a no regrets attitude to backing vaccines.
“We have tried to leave nothing on the table.”
And he said Britain is building up a “large scale” vaccine manufacturing capability to battle the virus.
Britain has now vaccinated more than 9.2 million people with at least one jabCredit: Getty Images – Getty
Boris Johnson, seen here at a vaccination centre in Batley, West Yorkshire, has said he is ‘optimistic’ Brits can have a summer holiday this yearCredit: AP:Associated Press
Signs warn drivers to the latest risk in East LondonCredit: Jeff Moore
It comes after a furious row with the EU over vaccine supplies exploded last week, with Brussels threatening to block life-saving jabs coming to the UK.
Trade Secretary Liz Truss has said Britain is ready to send leftover vaccines to its “friends and neighbours” as soon as our population is protected.
The Oxford-Astrazenca jab was the only vaccine being supplied to the world at cost, Mr Hancock stressed.
Meanwhile, door-to-door mass testing will be urgently rolled out in eight areas of England amid fears the South African variant of Covid has spread.
Q: WHAT IS THE NEW VARIANT?
A: The B.1.351 South African variant is a new strain of the coronavirus with eight mutations. It was first detected in Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa, in October 2020. It now makes up more than 90 per cent of Covid cases in South Africa and has spread to 20 more countries, including the UK.
Q: WHY IS IT SO CONTAGIOUS?
A: It spreads about 60-70 per cent faster than the original strain. This is because it can bind to human cells quickly and infect them more easily due to its mutations.
Q: WHY ARE WE MORE WORRIED ABOUT IT?
A: The speed of its spread means that if we don’t contain an outbreak quickly there would likely be a spike in cases and the NHS might become overwhelmed again. It is also thought that Covid-19 vaccines may be less effective against it.
Q: IS IT MORE DEADLY THAN THE ORIGINAL STRAIN?
A: It is not currently thought to be more deadly. Although it spreads faster, there is not enough data to suggest it causes more deaths or hospitalisations.
Q: HOW CAN WE STOP IT?
A: We have banned travellers from coming into England from South Africa. If they are still able to enter the country, as British and Irish nationals are, they must self-isolate for ten days. The vaccine roll-out will also provide immunity against the strain, although potentially at a lower level.
Q: WHAT DO I DO IF I LIVE IN A POSTCODE AREA WHERE THERE ARE CASES OF THIS VARIANT FOUND?
A: You must take up any offer of tests given to you — either from a door knock or a mobile test centre. If you have any symptoms or test positive you must isolate. Otherwise, continue washing hands, covering your face and giving space.
Mobile testing units are being sent into eight postcodes in n London, Surrey, Kent, Hertfordshire, the West Midlands and Merseyside.
Mr Hancock admitted “there may be further cases that we don’t know about yet, and genomic sequencing is in place to try to try to spot them”.
But he insisted: “There’s currently no evidence to suggest this variant is any more severe but we need to come down on it hard.
“If you live in one of these postcodes where we’re sending in enhanced testing then it’s imperative that you stay at home and you get a test even if you don’t have symptoms.
“This is so important so we can break the chain of the transmission of this new variant and we’ve got to bring this virus to heel.
“This is a stark reminder the fight against this virus isn’t over yet.”
Boris Johnson gives the thumbs up to patients after they were given the jab a COVID-19 vaccination centre in Batley, West Yorkshire, EnglandCredit: AP:Associated Press
Public Health England’s Dr Susan Hopkins pointed to vaccine trials that showed 60 per cent effectiveness against the South African variant.
She added: “We expect all other vaccines to have a similar level of effectiveness, particularly in reducing hospitalisation and death.”
The mutation that emerged from South Africa, named 501YV2, is feared to be 50 per cent more contagious than the original strain, but there is no evidence that it causes more severe disease.
Experts advising the Government said they do not believe the current vaccines would need to be tweaked to deal with any spread of the mutant strain.
Meanwhile, Boris Johnson has said he is “optimistic” Britain can have a summer holiday this year – but ONLY if the vaccine rollout continues to go well.
The PM refused to make any promises but said he was hopeful people could go on a break – as he made a visit to Batley in West Yorkshire.
He replied: “The last time I was on holiday in Yorkshire I had a fantastic time…
“I don’t want to give too much concrete by way of dates for our summer holidays. I am optimistic – I understand the reasons for being optimistic – but some things have got to go right for us.
“The vaccine programme has got to continue to be successful.”
Regional lockdown rules could be ditched in favour of a nationwide approach where rules are lifted across the country at the same time, the PM also revealed.
The PM stressed that he said he had not taken a decision yet – but that the virus was behaving in a similar way across the entire nation, so a blanket approach might make sense.
The PM told reporters: “It may be that a national approach, going down the tiers in a national way, might be better this time round, given that the disease is behaving much more nationally.”
The PM has said it would take time for the nation’s economy to recover from CovidCredit: Jon Super